Petrina Wisniewski travelled a lot in her younger years and has always been interested in seeing what types of vegetarian dishes were being offered up around the world.
She came across the process of dehydration. An age-old technique but with so much potential, especially for veggies. She bought a small dehydrator, started tinkering, and Fine Fettle was born.
Read her interview with Mamamia.
What is Fine Fettle?
Fine Fettle all began with FLATS. Essentially, FLATS are a cracker, made from vegetables. Not just a sprinkle, over 60%. Fresh Australian veggies are squished and dried into a very tasty wholesome snack full of real flavour and nutrients. There is no gluten, oil or added nasties like preservatives or sugar. They are delicious on their own, or with toppings or dips.
Back when I started, there was a real gap in the market for genuinely healthy snacks. You just could not find them. People were just not getting their five a day. So, there was an opportunity to make vegetables a more appealing snack option.
Fine Fettle started as a market stall, and we now have our own manufacturing facility in Sydney distributing product to over 300 independent grocers, major supermarkets, food services and airlines. We have over 40 products in the range, including our FLATS, our healthy instant meals EATS, our breakfast range BREKFLATS, and our newest addition Baked FLATS. All loaded with veggies, or fruit. We also have a delicious sweet range!
What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?
I was working in advertising as a strategic planner, both here and in the UK. I worked on a range of different businesses including a number of high profile and very interesting food brands.
What made you want to start your own business?
For me, it was about having something to be proud of. I loved coming up with new ideas and it was a more creative and challenging career option. I just thought that it was about time I do something for myself.
LISTEN: Ondine Sherman from Voiceless shares her advice for raising healthy (and happy) veggie and vegan teens. Post continues below.
How did you come up with the name?
I was laying on the beach with a friend and flicking through a thesaurus trying to think of a name for the company. I wanted something rooted in health. Under health was 'in fine fettle'. I loved it immediately.
Describe the staff/ownership structure of Fine Fettle.
It's just me and the shared passion of those around me.
Did you require investment to start your business?
I tested the market with very little dollar investment. I started slowly and built up the confidence to ramp up the business. I was lucky that I could work freelance in my old role, and it gave me the flexibility to work on Fine Fettle with money still coming in.
I started by renting an existing commercial food premises (with most of the equipment I needed), so it minimised the initial outlay. That way, I could gauge interest and sales before I had to take too much risk.
What's the single best piece of advice you got?
Make sure you spend time working on your business as well as working in it.
It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, especially at the beginning. You have to wear so many hats but it's so important to take a step back and take a good look at the bigger picture - like where you want to go and how you are going to get there.
What's the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?
Do a cash flow. Make sure you know what one is and have the finances available to support periods of growth and times when cash will be tight. You can be doing well, but when your money is flying out the door on expensive items like packaging and stock, it may not feel like you are.
What's the smartest thing you've done since starting Fine Fettle?
Surrounded myself with people who want to help and believed in my idea. Trust staff, advisors, suppliers, friends, family, partners and mentor to build on your idea and challenge you.
Scroll through to see some of the delicious healthy food options from Fine Fettle. Images via Facebook. (Post continues after gallery.)
Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?
Moving to cloud-based systems has been a huge help, such as Dropbox, Gmail and Xero.
What do you do when you're feeling like you're in a hole emotionally (or financially)?
I lock myself away for a while. Usually outside business hours on a weekend. I then try and forget about it all together by going for a walk and coming back to it later or the next day. If it's a really big hole, I call my mentors. We might then get a group together to workshop the issue and figure out a plan of attack.
How many hours a day do you work on your business? Has this changed?
When it's your business, hours don't tend to matter too much. I make sure I have time "off" and have a normal home routine, but I could easily work a 14 hour day. If you need to pull an all-night you do that too. Whatever it takes.
What are your non-negotiables?
Sundays with family and friends. No work if I can manage it.
Tell us about your proudest moment.
Aside from first seeing my FLATS on the shelves at Woolworths and Coles (where they still sit today), one of my proudest moments was being recognised by the Australian Government in their "Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations" publication. We were up against the likes of Coca Cola, and other huge companies. More recently though, winning the Best Food Product at the 2017 Naturally Good Show. It's the only health-focused trade show in Australia, and to be voted best product by retailers was definitely a moment to remember.
What does your personal life look like?
A little crazy at the moment, especially with a ten-month-old son. Home time is precious.
How much sleep do you get every night?
Eight or nine hours. I know that's a lot with a baby in tow and I'm so lucky to have one that sleeps well. I can function on much less if necessary, but it's a slippery slope.
What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?
Find a way to start investigating your idea without the pressure of another career. Go travelling, move to freelance or simplify your life to make more room for your startup. Investigate the idea, write a plan, share it around and test it if you can. Then take the plunge and get on with it.
Do you have a mentor?
Yes. I have two brilliant mentors. Both are very experienced business people and they are always there for me. One is more strategic with experience outside the food industry, and the other has operational focus and runs his own very successful food manufacturing business.
Since we're in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Start Ups do you recommend?
To get 10% of all Fine Fettle products enter LADYSTARTUP at the checkout. * Valid until the end of March 2018*
You can see more from Fine Fettle at their website, Facebook and Instagram. If you have a #LadyStartUp or want to recommend one for us to cover, drop us an email: [email protected]